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Following on from my post yesterday on the Marketing Intensive For Professional Writers, I've set out below the main points that I took away from the main conference itself, which was an incredibly well organised event (and I really must repeat my thanks to the organisers who did a bang up job).

Again, in line with SCBWI blogging policy I'm going to restrict my conference report to general comments about the flavour of the comments coming from panellists and speakers. #ny12scbwi is still active on Twitter, where a lot of other attendees have Tweeted about sessions and linked to their own reports.

- Chris Crutcher is fricking hilarious. He was one of the Conference's key note speakers and read excerpts from his autobiography (the words "Want to see something neat?" have seldom been deployed to such devastating comic effect). I'd never come across Chris Crutcher before (mainly because I think I'm right in saying that his books aren't published in the UK), but I picked up a copy of Deadline, which I'm currently reading and thoroughly enjoying. He's apparently one of the most frequently challenged authors in American libraries and I'm not surprised - he writes about difficult subjects well and in a way that can make you laugh and small-minded people are never going to be able to cope with it. One of the pieces of advice he gave to the Conference was to tell stories that resonate and to tell the best truth you can tell.

- During a state-of-the union panel on the children's book industry today, the point was made that the current retail landscape (notably the closure of Borders a couple of years ago) remains a huge issue and publishers are still waiting to see how it plays out. Most authors now tour through independent stores in the USA, but it was interesting to hear that Amazon is seen as both an opportunity and a potential threat.

- Contrary to what the doomsayers would have you believe, 2011 was a good year for children's publishing and publishers are actively engaging with new media and trying to work out how to maximise its potential as they see digital publishing as having a vibrant future. A lot depends on the fact that currently devices are quite expensive and the formats don't suit some types of children's book (notably picture books) while discoverability for electronic books remains a problem (including on sites like Amazon). One statistic given by a publisher was that ebooks account for between 10% and 60% of YA book sales depending on the publisher/imprint (although sales remain higher in adult fiction).

- Publishers do expect authors nowadays to engage in marketing their book. You need to make it easier for potential readers (both children and adults) to find you. School visits remain important but state awards can also help to keep a book in print.

- There was a debate amongst panellists on whether children's/YA books have to be commercial or not. What emerged was that books do need to make money and the reality of our post-Harry Potter world is that publishers do want potential bestsellers. But the feeling was also there that publishers should balance their lists with more niche books (e.g. literary children's books) and it was generally agreed that timing is everything when it comes to finding the best editor for your book.

- Many publishers do seem to want world rights to manuscripts, which means that they looking for books with a potentially broad global appeal.

- Henry Winkler stopped by to give a surprise speech to the conference. Yes. That Henry Winkler. Articulate, warm, funny and enthusiastic about books and reading, I was genuinely impressed by his speech and he really did deserve the honorary OBE he received for services to children's literature.

- Looking forward at potential future trends, one publishing editor suggested that full on space opera could be the next trend for YA after apocalyptic/dystopian fiction starts to die down.

- Cassandra Clare gave a key note speech on forbidden love and love triangles and how they can each be used to maintain romantic fiction in YA literature. It was another humorous, informative speech and I was impressed by the way she handled her material. The main points to take away is that if you're going to write about forbidden love, there should be high stakes and big obstacles, while if you're going to write about love triangles, make sure they're a proper triangle and not a 'love V'.

- One acquiring editor for a publishing house said that authors shouldn't worry too much about novel length. There are no hard and fast rules and much of the length will be affected by the genre you're writing in.

So there you have it.

If either of my posts on the SCBWI Winter Conference 2012 have whetted your appetite, then the good news is that there's a summer conference in Los Angeles between 3rd August and 6th August. Details are still being finalised, but it is well worth the time and money. In the meantime, you should check out your local SCBWI chapter to see what they're up to. Many of them are very active and hold regular events, so it's well worth considering taking out a subscription or see if they host events open to non-members to get a feel for the group.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
captainsblog
Feb. 3rd, 2012 01:57 am (UTC)
Ayyyyyyy!
I take it that, Fonz notwithstanding, the conference didn't jump the shark.

70s stereotypes notwithstanding, HW is well-known a supporter of good acting and writing. Good on him for the contribution.
hooton
Feb. 3rd, 2012 12:55 pm (UTC)
Re: Ayyyyyyy!
Heh! No, there was no shark jumping involved.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )